It’s now December. We went back to classes on the university campus in September, masked but present. In person. I was once again a real teacher in front of real students, handing out paper course packs. Classes finished 5 minutes earlier to air out rooms. Social distancing was still required, although not always enforced.  The university distributed free refillable flacons of hand gel. I asked very nicely and got a couple of new whiteboard markers, even if the prefab in which I taught didn’t have a whiteboard rubber and the (male) colleague who preceeded me left his scribbled notes on manifest destiny for me to erase with a handful of tissues.

In many ways university life picked up where it had left off pre pandemic. But once the first excitement had rubbed off, I felt a certain sense of confusion. This wasn’t due to the fact that the new academic school year began on a Wednesday with weeks ending on Tuesdays. Or that many students seemed to have discovered a new-found (temporary?) enthusiasm for their obligatory language classes. Or that I felt more than ever, a rusty imposter standing back up there in front of classes, trying not to eat my mask as I articulated foreign words, gesticulating for good measure. Smiley eyes invisible behind steamed-up glasses.

I would be hard put to put my finger on what the precise difference was. Everything seemed a bit more full on than it used to be. As if in the interim I had slowed down or everything else had speeded up and I was ever one step behind. Was this simply due to lack of habit? Had I forgotten what it felt like to be woken by the alarm on my phone? To slip on my trainers and put my rucksack over my shoulders? Possibly. Had lockdown made me realise the importance of taking my time and proceeding at my own speed? No more rushing across campus for the next lesson even if this did mean I would be a few minutes late? Maybe. Or was it the new sense of impermanence – as if I might wake up the next day and the campus would once again become the ghost town I had visited in June? Rationally, I should be reflecting upon what I had learnt from and about online teaching during the pandemic and how this could generally improve my teaching practice, but to do this I had to get back to my screen and I found that I wanted to be anywhere else but there. I needed distance but simultaneously felt as if there had already been too much distancing going on.

Fortunately, things have a momentum of their own and two projects which I had been involved in pre and during lockdown have recently come to fruition and I would like to share these with you.

Th feirst is a short A2 level course with listening and reading activities as well as a placement test that I created with Paul Valéry colleagues, both of which are now freely available and accessible on the French site, Université Ouverte des Humanités (created in 2007) which centralises and provides access to modules that cover literature, art, language learning, human and social sciences.

Secondly, I was interviewed concerning my blogging course in the context of the Shout 4HE European project which aims to centralise innovative courses and approaches to teaching English in European higher education institutions. The site shares 45 videos and is a mine of information and ideas.  I particularly enjoyed two based on different language courses at the University of Bordeaux. The first is presented by Laüra Hoskins entitled ‘Enhancing Oral Communication Skills in English Learners by Making Video’ in which she explains how she has medical students tell a story or share a valuable idea by creating a  paperslide video in this hands-on example of task-based learning.The second has Melanie White and Isabelle Knight talking about a blended learning course in which sports students have to keep a learning journal to track their progress (= increased responsibility for learning) with, as a final task, the creation of a podcast/video in which they not only talk about an aspect of their relationship with sport but film themselves in sporting action.

So, here’s to innovative practice and having fun whilst teaching and finding one’s way both back to campus and back in front of a screen. And to beautiful flowers from fig_tart

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